Gotham is destined to have not one but three Batgirls in five years' time, but none of them are Barbara Gordon, as readers learn early on in "Batgirl: Futures End" #1 by artist Javier Garron and departing series writer Gail Simone. This is in fact Simone's final issue, but her final chapter on Batgirl is anything but a high note for the series; from a mildly contrived opening and awkward-looking fight sequence to a cliched climax, the tie-in issue belies the far superior storytelling that Simone and the regular art team have demonstrated throughout the series' run.
Most awkward of all perhaps is Barbara herself, who now goes by the name BÃªte Noire, or Black Beast. As rendered by Garron, Barbara's character now looks beastly indeed. Her appearances are thankfully limited to relative few pages, with the bulk of the issue split between her new persona's origin and the "League of Batgirls" that she commands.
Horrible costume aside, though, Garron competently draws most of the issue but makes some artistic gaffes that mar certain spots; the characters sometimes look stiff during violent encounters, and facial expressions seem a little off at times. He doesn't have to reach too far to render the three new Batgirls, as their looks are derived from the original, but at least these characters are designed and handled much better.
Simone starts the issue off on a seemingly happy note, but the threat that derails Barbara's happiness, while fitting, is introduced far too mundanely, occurs incredibly easily, and dispatched way too conveniently. Simone oddly decides to have Barbara abandon her Batgirl identity, a story device that she had already explored much better in the main series. Having decided to use the idea again, her execution of it the second time out lacks originality and believability.
Barbara's part of the story is likewise derailed for the remainder of the issue, going from bad to worse with her ill-conceived Black Beast guise and capping off with a formulaic showdown, and one where Barbara foolishly makes an uncharacteristic mistake that could have been catastrophic. The issue is carried by the three young heroes under her, two of whom are known to Bat-family fans plus one new, younger character. Simone establishes a great dynamic between this trio, and the issue's resolution only strengthens that; these characters are the only reasons why it's regrettable that this issue is only a one-shot.
"Batgirl: Futures End" #1 is an odd and lackluster sendoff for Simone, and is worth picking up solely for all of the other characters calling themselves Batgirl.